This story’s inclusive, mildly spooky plot and its visual details will engage kids and encourage rereading for what they...

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GATOR, GATOR, GATOR!

An updated, aquatic version of “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt,” this #ownvoices-authored story has a protagonist who possesses more curiosity than courage.

In this swamp-filled, poetic, circular tale, an unnamed child asks readers Dora the Explorer–type direct-address questions while inviting readers aboard a motorboat. Since Granny has said that the gator has skin “like nails” and a temper that’s “hot like sauce,” the protagonist imparts safety advice and passes you a life jacket and a pair of binoculars. Shadowed shapes that prompt many false alarms enable young readers to guess which animals the protagonist sees before light and a binocular view reveal them. When a big shadowy hint suggests that the protagonist is about to find that gator, a hasty retreat commences. Set in the bayou, this book features a black girl with an afro-puff ponytail, contributing to what may be a growing genre of children’s books that depict black and brown children and families enjoying nature. Notably, the companion to whom the protagonist hands binoculars has arms that are equally brown, frequently seen breaking into the frame. With full-page spreads of bold color, especially blues and greens, Preston-Gannon invites young readers to notice and discuss the clearly illustrated flora and fauna.

This story’s inclusive, mildly spooky plot and its visual details will engage kids and encourage rereading for what they might have missed. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-246330-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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THE WONKY DONKEY

The print version of a knee-slapping cumulative ditty.

In the song, Smith meets a donkey on the road. It is three-legged, and so a “wonky donkey” that, on further examination, has but one eye and so is a “winky wonky donkey” with a taste for country music and therefore a “honky-tonky winky wonky donkey,” and so on to a final characterization as a “spunky hanky-panky cranky stinky-dinky lanky honky-tonky winky wonky donkey.” A free musical recording (of this version, anyway—the author’s website hints at an adults-only version of the song) is available from the publisher and elsewhere online. Even though the book has no included soundtrack, the sly, high-spirited, eye patch–sporting donkey that grins, winks, farts, and clumps its way through the song on a prosthetic metal hoof in Cowley’s informal watercolors supplies comical visual flourishes for the silly wordplay. Look for ready guffaws from young audiences, whether read or sung, though those attuned to disability stereotypes may find themselves wincing instead or as well.

Hee haw. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-545-26124-1

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2018

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Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories.

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CREEPY CARROTS!

Kids know vegetables can be scary, but rarely are edible roots out to get someone. In this whimsical mock-horror tale, carrots nearly frighten the whiskers off Jasper Rabbit, an interloper at Crackenhopper Field.

Jasper loves carrots, especially those “free for the taking.” He pulls some in the morning, yanks out a few in the afternoon, and comes again at night to rip out more. Reynolds builds delicious suspense with succinct language that allows understatements to be fully exploited in Brown’s hilarious illustrations. The cartoon pictures, executed in pencil and then digitally colored, are in various shades of gray and serve as a perfectly gloomy backdrop for the vegetables’ eerie orange on each page. “Jasper couldn’t get enough carrots … / … until they started following him.” The plot intensifies as Jasper not only begins to hear the veggies nearby, but also begins to see them everywhere. Initially, young readers will wonder if this is all a product of Jasper’s imagination. Was it a few snarling carrots or just some bathing items peeking out from behind the shower curtain? The ending truly satisfies both readers and the book’s characters alike. And a lesson on greed goes down like honey instead of a forkful of spinach.

Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-0297-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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